It’s diesel or nothing
IF there’s any need for proof that the future of the internal combustion engine is with diesel it’s Audi’s new flagship, the A8.
It’s diesel or nothing in the A8, there is no petrol option in this market anyway. Audi New Zealand didn’t think it was necessary because it believes there is everything a prestige car driver needs in its twin turbo diesel.
At 4.2-litres it’s virtually the same size as the petrol power unit that is still available in Europe. And it also produces a very similar power output – 258kW in the diesel and 273kW in the petrol.
But that’s basically where the similarities end. The petrol produces maximum torque of 445Nm at 3500rpm.
The diesel’s is a massive 800Nm and it comes on as low as 1750rpm.
And that is why the choice of a diesel is a no-brainer. Put your foot down and diesel hardly has to think about it. It just pins its ears back and goes for it as the twin turbochargers spin up. And it keeps on going. There is a solid rush of acceleration and suddenly the plane has taken off and it’s heading supersonic.
The A8 is not a light car despite Audi’s efforts to keep the weight down with its mainly aluminium body. That’s because there’s a lot of equipment on board and it’s a big vehicle anyway. So with the diesel engine now balanced nicely behind the front axle the car weighs still in at 5kg under two tonnes.
Yet the big diesel gives it the acceleration of a sports car. Audi says it will do the standing 0 to 100kmh sprint in 5.5 seconds although it was just over 6.5 seconds on my reckoning. No matter, it’s very quick.
It is also very economical, despite the performance that is available. And that’s also one of the big advantages of the diesel. Audi quotes combined cycle fuel economy figures of 7.6 litres per 100km.
These may or not be particularly relevant to someone who has just spent $245,000-plus on a car. But they do mean it has a reasonable sort of range from the big tank.
So what are the disadvantages of a diesel in a luxury limousine? None.
AUDI NZ believes that the buyer at the upper end of the market is acutely aware of the advantages of diesel having already experienced its value in other larger vehicles like the Q7 sports utility.
Most would never suspect that the big Audi has a diesel under the bonnet. If they did it would help dispel the myths that diesel has to be noisy and dirty.
There are no badges to indicate the A8 as diesel powered and while there might be a little more underlying rumble at rest there is no suggestion at speed that it’s not a petrol. Apart from that incredible performance.
That’s all put to use through a big new eight-speed transmission. If it was a manual it would be easy to lose your way and never be in the right gear. But the Audi’s electronics get around that problem and ensure it’s running in the right one. Audi has redesigned the shift lever in this new car and it’s quite different from a conventional shift.
A button at one end of the T bar switches the car into drive, park and reverse and it’s quite a natural sort of system. Audi also recognises that it is a natural place to put the left hand and accept it is also a convenient hand rest.
The one badge that is on the car is the Quattro one signifying the all-wheel-drive system. It makes the A8 platform extremely stable.
Like the transmission the allwheel-drive system is tied into the Drive Select electronic chassis tuning system. The system controls the steering response depending on road speed and the weighting of the steering system.
There is the choice of four modes and the driver can change them at the push of a button. The luxury limousine wafting down the motorway can quickly change into sports mode to wind through the back roads.
As the flagship Audi, the A8 also gets the very latest crash safety systems like adaptive cruise control and lane assist that keeps the car running straight if the driver nods off. There is also a radar based system that detects other vehicles in the A8’s personal space.
It’s almost 2m wide, not counting the mirrors, and more than 5.1m long. So the A8 has huge presence and it does feel very big at times. But big outside means big inside and as expected the rear seats are made to lounge in with superb leg and foot room. And it’s all done in a luxurious atmosphere – leather, walnut and thick carpets. One of the reasons it’s so quiet is the double glazing in the windows.
There are a host of luxury and convenience features. There are the usual things like the electric park brake, the start-stop button, park assist, the 10 speaker audio system and television. But there is also the electric door and boot closing system that pulls the doors shut tight when they’re almost there and the lighting in the ceiling console unit and round the top of the B pillars that can be changed to suit the moods.
The MMI system, which puts the controls for the audio, air conditioning, sat nav and phone all in one place can now be controlled on a touch screen. Audi calls the A8 its masterpiece. It’s easy to see why.
Speedster: When the foot goes down, the Audi A8 pins its ears back.